CRAIG Gardner has backed Saturday’s opponents QPR to emerge victorious in their battle to avoid the drop.
But Gardner is still confident that Sunderland can halt the basement boys’ momentum by preventing Harry Redknapp’s side recording back-to-back victories for the first time this season.
Last weekend’s win at Southampton moved QPR to within four points of safety after securing only a third Premier League success of the campaign.
QPR had just four points from 10 games when Redknapp succeeded Mark Hughes at the Loftus Road helm and had only managed a further six points by Christmas.
Yet the victory over their fellow strugglers has prompted renewed optimism of what would be a remarkable escape from the depths of the relegation zone.
Sunderland right-back Craig Gardner believes QPR can now indeed succeed, even if he is desperate for the Black Cats to burst the bubble in West London this weekend.
Gardner said: “QPR had a good result at the weekend and they want to get off the bottom of the league, but we want to get points on the board too.
“To be honest, I think they will get out of it. They are a strong team and they have got a good manager.
“If they keep on getting results, they will feel they can get out of it.
“Hopefully, we can put a dent in their plans though.
“Harry Redknapp went in there and obviously the players thought ‘we need to sort ourselves out here’.
“And after being well adrift at one stage, they have started to pick up some results, and now the gap is only four points.
“They are a solid team all over the pitch, and they have a lot of experience.
“But if we are at the races and we perform like we can, I can’t see us losing.”
Sunderland have lingering concerns of their own after a five-game winless streak, albeit they can still boast a healthy six-point buffer with the bottom three.
But while Gardner also acknowledges Sunderland’s precarious position, the 26-year-old is looking up, with the Black Cats one of five teams separated by just three points, all vying for 10th spot.
Gardner added: “We don’t want to be thinking ‘are we going to be safe’, although maybe we have to do that right now.
“We want to be trying to get into the top half of the table.
“We just need to keep on going. We are only three points away from 10th place and if we can keep on grinding out results and picking up points, then hopefully we can still finish in the top 10.
“We don’t want to be looking over our shoulders any more, we want to be looking up.”